The Silver Spirit was docked at the main cruise terminal at Port San Pedro and was the only ship there. Check in and emigration was swift and painless.
Reception sign in, photo taking and credit card hand over were all completed with a minimum of fuss, and as it was just after midday, no queues.
Generally the ship is in good condition. There are however signs of wear if you look closely. The rattan style chairs at the back of the Panorama have worn arms where the rattan has broken. If one looked closely at the chairs in the restaurants it is possible to see where they have been banged and chipped. This was more obvious in the suite, where both the glass topped table and the desk had very obvious marks in the wood. The carpet in the suite was obviously worn in one or two places.
Interestingly the Spirit had a dry dock for a couple of weeks towards the end of 2012, but to be honest I could see no sign that anything had been done to the interior.
The 'splashy' sinks are still there, and has been said elsewhere all the odd design failings are still in place.
The public areas were kept very clean, but again if you look closely they are all showing slight signs of wear.
Guests & Staff
For the leg from Los Angeles to Papeete we had around 400 guests on board. In Papeete 23 left and about an additional 80 got on, leaving us with just over 450. As we had a number of solo guests this left very few empty suites.
Guests were a good cosmopolitan mix, a large number of Brits (120+), some other Europeans, a few Australians, some Canadians and more than 50% from the US.
Most guests were over 60, a handful of others ranging from mid 20's to 40', and there was one Italian family with an 18 month old toddler on board.
The only poor behavior observed was from a lack of understanding (or possibly arrogance) by the father of the toddler. He had the child in the pool, although it was not toilet trained and unfortunately the staff were too scared to intervene. Only when the Hotel Director was made aware of the situation did it stop. On more than one occasion the child was brought into the main bar where Trivia was being played and had a screaming fit, again with a total lack of interest from the father. The father was also the only person onboard ship who chose not to conform to the dress code.
There were two Gentlemen Hosts on this voyage and they worked quite hard. They were not only available for dancing in the afternoon and evening but seemed to have been roped into a number of day time activities by the CD. There were also two International Hostesses onboard, but they did not seem to much apart from escorting people in and out of the theatre in the evening.
It is worth noting that when the weather is warm and the ship was at sea the pool deck becomes very crowded. It is only slightly larger than those on the Shadow or Whisper and put more than 300 people in the sun and it really shows. The sun beds were even extended to the back of the Panorama.
Ate here most evenings and generally the food was very good. The Executive Chef Jerome Foussier set a high standard across the board. Did not have any bad meals, but occasionally had something on a cold plate, this was resolved by always asking for a hot plate for my main. Had a couple of Indonesian meals and a really memorable Indian meal one evening. Marcelo the Brazilian MD ran a very tight and well controlled room.
Cosmin was the head sommelier, and apart from running out of one red that I liked always made sure that there were plenty of alternatives to the wine of the day. One of the other junior sommeliers did try and sell me something from the Connoisseurs list, but he was easy to ignore. Generally the wines onboard were good, the NZ SB Dashwood was available, although it was running out towards the end of 31 days. There were two French SB's and one Chilean SB. The 'La Flor' Cab Sav was plentiful. For the chardonnay lovers The Crusher was available, and there was a reasonably nice Chablis.
Ate breakfast here most days. It was the usual buffet style, plenty of fresh fruit and there were always strawberries available. There was fresh mango and papaya after our calls in French Polynesia and on some days raspberries and blackberries were at the serving section. On the other days there were always some available via your waiter. Service was always very good.
Ate lunch here some days, especially if it was nice enough to sit outside. The food was generally good.
Only ate twice in the evening, once outside and once inside. For the first time on Silversea I had a subpar duck ragout. The main reason for avoiding La Terrazza for dinner was the ever present Italian toddler whose parents had a dedicated table for all meals, and who occasionally let rip in the evenings.
On a number of days the grill was supplemented at lunch by an extended BBQ, with some excellent food provided. The fresh water Madagascan prawns were delicious.
Hot Rocks was never closed, even when it was cold and windy outside, and there was always someone there by 6:59 waiting to get fed. When we ate there we had excellent food and service, and we just love the hot rocks. On the leg to Papeete there was a night when it seemed that everyone wished to eat outside and they managed to cope with 115 covers. Again the staff did an excellent job.
Had dinner here once and although the menu has not changed now for over a year the food and service was very good. The lobster was good and the souffle outstanding.
Since our last trip on the Spirit Seishin now opens for lunch. There is sashimi, a wide selection of sushi and a hot fish basket. This became my favorite place for a light lunch. We also ate the full menu on a couple of evenings and particularly enjoyed the Wagyu beef.
Stars Supper Club.
The first time we ate here I though the menu was a little odd, but on subsequent dinners, there had been a change and the menu worked very well. I thought Mikka Brown was a little tired and didn't quite hit the spots this time.
The main bar was run in an amazingly efficient fashion by Chester, well supported by his assistant Vishkal.
Rommel & Bass ran the Panorama and Zack the Pool bar. We never used the bar in the Casino, which is now really no longer viable without the smokers and I never got to the Observation Lounge when the bar there was open. The main bar was very busy before dinner but most people ended up in the Panorama after the shows.
Bulter and assistant
Both were excellent, Wilson was from Goa and left the same day we did and his English was very good, and way much better than some. Henny our lovely assistant was on the Shadow with us last year.
Apart from the cooking demonstrations we did not attend any of the lectures. We watched some of them on the TV on repeat. The lecturers themselves were nice, but it's not really our cup of tea. I thought Corey Sandler does a very good job and is well worth having onboard. We had sailed with Herb Keyser before and to be honest its time they get someone younger.
The bridge lecturer, George King was outstanding, and he was an excellent teacher. At times he had 40+ people attending his sessions and most sea days we had 9 or 10 tables for the afternoon duplicate sessions. His lovely wife Sally was always there to help and fill in.
Silversea should certainly use them more often.
Trivia was very well attended, pretty competitive and well run by the CD, Kirk Detweiller. It was held in the main bar with somewhere around 100 guests participating.
I thought the Artists of Silversea were the weakest of the groups we had seen so far. This might have been due to their coming to the end of their contract or possibly the way they were used by the CD. They were not particularly sociable. One of the things that was missing were early evening single or duo shows in the Panorama, probably down to the fact that less than half of the guests would be able to get in.
Once again shows started off at 10:15 and after grumbles from the 'oldies' eventually ended up at 9:45, which made it hard to get there for most of the show.
As this was an L'Ecole des Chefs voyage we had David Bilsland onboard.
There were a number morning cooking demonstrations, all of which were excellent. David ran 3 cook and learn lunches in Stars, again they were excellent and the food memorable. David also ran a market visit in Papeete which was a lot of fun.
Ports & Tours
The highlights of the trip were Nuku Hiva, Rangiroa, Christmas and Fanning Islands and a side trip from Maui to Lanai. Generally the shipboard tours were well run and provided reasonable value for money.
The only port where the weather was bad was the day we arrived in Hilo, and it absolutely threw it down for most of the day. Luckily we took the Volcano Park tour and avoided most of the bad weather. The next day the ship visited Kona on the other side of the Island and it was sunny all day.
The ship stayed overnight in Papeete but the overnight in Bora Bora was cancelled (before we embarked). This was a shame for the crew as they have very few chances to get off in the evenings. There was also a late stop in Honolulu to enable a deck BBQ.
Both the visits to Kiribati caused problems. The ports are tender only and in Christmas Island the two tenders were restricted to about 50 pax each as the lagoon was fairly shallow, with about Â½ a meter clearance below the bottom of the tender at one point. This lead to very long queues and waits of more than 2 hours to get off. A large number of guests gave up and did not bother to get off. The main criticism was that no one from the ship appeared to have considered this being a problem in advance and it was very poorly handled.
The next day at Fanning Island was worse, the regular morning rain squall blew up and made visibility poor enough to suspend the tender service. The Captain then decided that as we were running into bad weather later that day to cancel the service completely, and we left 3 hours early and with glorious sunshine bathing the island.
It turned out to be colder than expected, and although it was the rainy season in the South Pacific we were pretty lucky about missing most of the rain. We had two rough days after leaving Fanning Island, swells up to 4 meters and 50-60mph winds, and for part of one day the lifts were all stopped. We also had a further couple of rough days after leaving Maui and it was mostly unseasonably cold for the 5 days back to LA.
One point that those booking Silver Suites should consider is that when the weather is rough every time the ship hits a swell the bump travels all the way to the top of the front of the ship. Some people complained that they got no real sleep on the rough nights.
We saw very few birds anywhere away from the Islands, but we did see large numbers of whales around Maui.